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Mind-Body Problem

It confounds one to ponder just what the felt qualities of experience—the greenness of trees, sweetness of sugar, pleasure of orgasm, or burning of pain—have to do with the blob of gray stuff inside one’s head. It is too enormous a leap from the circuitry of brain cells to the personal spectacle of experience, which one is ill prepared to make even in the age of neuroscience. The brilliant Leibniz could not conceive how the brain as a mechanism could give rise to subjective experience. Many philosophers and scientists even today cannot, and the Mind-Body Problem is a wilderness in which we are still wandering. I believe this is partly because we continue benighted with romantic notions of our own idealized being as subjects, on the one hand, and with simplistic idealizations of matter, on the other. In other words, we are victims of the subject-object split we study, being ourselves tied in the Gordian knot we attempt to unravel. In part, also, the concept of mechanism is at fault (or else arose from the same defective thinking). The systems with which Leibniz and Descartes were familiar were hopelessly simple. A modern computer is unfathomably more complex than a clock; yet even it is nowhere nearly as complex as the lowliest organism—a single cell. Nor is the organism an isolated system, an artifact. It is no more like a computer than like a clock.

RELATED TAGS: [qualia, (experiencial) quality(ies) of experience, brain-mind/mind-brain connection, Leibniz, mind-body problem, idealized subject/object, subject-object split/dualism, isolated system, organism as machine, concept of mechanism, mechanist metaphor]

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